Living and Loving in a Culture of Never Enough

 

Respondingtopain

 

Preparing for my talk at Flood Church this weekend on “Parenting in a Culture of Never Enough”, I wrote this slide inspired by a week that stretched me with my own children.

Whether you are parenting your children, caring for your pets, or anyone in your charge – it hurts when your loved ones hurt.

Becoming a parent was not a life-long dream for me. I was wary at best. Then I met my husband and I took the dive into this role knowing he was a voice of reason and strength at my side. Now I am all in with two little people who expanded my heart and continue to stretch me in ways I did not know I could be stretched.

My husband and I found new edges in our relationship when our first child was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. While the diagnosis gave us a framework to understand her brain and nervous system, she was her own unique person who did not fit into any mold.

There is a saying within the autism community: If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum may not be very different than parenting any other kid  – there are good days, hard days and days you can barely breathe.

However we get there, I believe we all can relate to the roller coaster of emotions involved in being responsible for a loved one.

This week took me to the ‘barely breathe’ edge as my daughter’s nervous system made wearing clothes, smelling certain smells, seeing anything she deemed “gross”, hearing sounds at a certain volume unbearable.

Everything hurt. What feels like a tap to you and me felt like a punch on her skin. Noises we barely notice were causing her to cringe.

And when that kind of assault on a nervous system is going on, she responds like most of us – fight and flight, but mostly fight. My girl can scream and turn on herself in an instant. It can be dizzying.

And when her brain goes into limbic mode, she has her own shame spiral to reckon with as she hates feeling different and doing things that may not respect herself or others.

It takes a lot of energy to hold space in these moments.

When those I care about hurt, I hurt.

Their hurts + my hurts intersect and in a millisecond my brain decides whether to let the feelings wash over me or go into fight, flight, freeze or numb out.

I love my passionate, deep, brilliant, brave daughter.

My love does not waver but I sure want to shrink from it when others give witness to her pain, my pain.

There is nothing cool, smooth, elegant about a public meltdown.

In a culture that says you are not: enough, doing enough, strong enough, Christian enough, calm enough, professional enough, wealthy enough, cool enough, skinny or fit enough, have-it-all together enough – the pressure can feel like something fierce.

It hurts to see my daughter misunderstood. I know it hurts her, too.

And my own stories of feeling misunderstood, ashamed and alone get activated during these times too – whether I know it in the moment or not.

Both of our nervous systems were hot messes this week.

My colleague Bobbi Hannah, an occupational therapist here in San Diego, sent me this chart after we recently were geeking out talking about the nervous system. She shared how the impact of too many “dings” on our nervous system can lead to us feeling flooded, shut down or taking measures to defend ourselves from more triggers.  I gave her an ‘amen’ as I see this so much in my daughter, myself and many of my clients.

This metaphor also fits with all I have learning in my EMDR training and other trainings + readings from people like Bessel van der Kolk, Dan Siegel, Richard Schwartz and more.

Dings

When we get enough dings on our nervous system, our hearts, our souls – we start to engage in protective choices which may not be aligned with our core values. Shame creeps in and we may begin to believe the lies of scarcity mindset which is a cocktail of shame, comparison, competition, fear and loneliness.

In those moments of feeling exposed, confused and helpless – it is a nervous system overload.

The shoulds, the supposed to’s, the rules, the plans – they can get all jumbled up between your loved one’s pain and your pain.

The default is to stop the pain of your loved one so you stop hurting – and sometimes we attempt to shut down this pain in ways that lead to some serious empathic failure.

Making the choice to stay calm, respectful and patient happens. But not as often as I would like. Frustration, fatigue and vulnerability can get the best of me during these times.

I suspect you can relate.

We all mess it up and want do overs.

But that is the awesome thing about grace and failure – we get to teach how to fall and fail well – and rise again after those moments where all we know to be true and right goes out the window as we jump to shut down the pain in ways that make everyone feel crappy.

How we handle struggle – our struggles and the struggles of those we love –  can potentially be powerful medicine for our relationships and communities if we dare to be vulnerable.

The pressure to never fail, mess up and make a mistake can be immense. Perfection says if you are not perfect, you are letting your loved one down.

But one of the biggest gifts we can do is show how we recover when we mess up.

THIS is the space of courage, grace, learning, inspiration and connection.

Yes, falls and failures invite the naysayers, the shoulders and the I-told-you-so voices.

Digging in and dealing with past and present hurts is ground zero for responding differently when the hurts of our loved ones collide with our hurts.

All of us on the Potentia team are honored to support people who desire to respond to differently to discomfort, pain and shame so not hurt themselves or others. Sometimes this work is nuanced and takes time. And sometimes it just takes a period of getting outside your head and finding out you are not alone in your struggles.

It is brave work loving people and navigating the messiness of real, honest, meaningful relationships. And when the dings get too much, remember you are not meant to struggle alone.

Daring to reach out and ask for help is a powerful example to model to those you care about. Keep showing up. The dark emotions are part of being human. And never forget we are all on this deeply human journey together.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

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Results May Vary…

Happy Friday!

I hope you have some fun plans this weekend along with some time for rest and play.

Tomorrow, I am driving to Julian, just outside of San Diego, to speak at a women’s retreat for graduating seniors from Point Loma Nazarene University.

The theme of the weekend  – which I love – is Results May Vary and the organizers of this retreat invited speakers from different seasons of life to share about their varied lives post college.

I am not sure how my 22 year-old self would appreciate a retreat like this. I was so focused on results, certainty, bottom line, goals and my career.

Perspective was not my strength at the time. It still can be a struggle when I get in the certainty zone.

And when my expected results varied during my twenties- personally and professionally – life felt like it was turned upside down. Learning about heartbreak, disappointment, patience, faith, friendship and the fragility of life went against “the plan”  – but uncertainty, love and adversity brought me out of my comfort zone and began to teach me what it meant to live a life of courage.

Because I was living a life of shoulds based on what it seemed everyone was supposed to do, it took some intense curve balls to wake me up to the beauty of uncertainty and the varied results of living a brave life less focused on the opinions others + external measures and more reflective on integrity, value and trust.

Telling someone, “Results may vary.” is not the best confidence-builder – but it is honest feedback and helps check expectations that may fuel worry, fear of missing out and rash decisions.

Our brains are hardwired for certainty and safety, so it makes sense there is a pull towards this homeostasis.

Even in my work as a psychotherapist, I get asked:

  • How long will I have to be in therapy?
  • Will I stop struggling with ____ after working with you?
  • How do I know this will work?
  • Will it be worth the investment of time and resources?
  • Why can’t I figure this out on my own?
  • Can talking with my friends be just as effective as therapy?
  • Why does therapy not seem to help some people?

Results. May. Vary.

Results vary because everyone has a different story, temperament, brain chemistry, family of origin – there is no one approach that fits all. If there was – we would all be doing it and there would not be such a demand for therapy, coaching, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, mentorship and more.

A positive relationship with your therapist, evidenced based approaches, a solid understanding of trauma and the brain, specialized training in areas of focus, a beautiful environment and good client care combined with a motivated client can make a dent in the presenting goals while increasing the odds there will be some sustained benefit.

Yes, results still may vary.

The unknown is scary. But often, so is status quo.

Daring to reach out, ask for help and show up to share your story of struggle is more than half the battle towards living a life which can better tolerate uncertainty.

Instead of asking for certainty in results as you seek out professional support, require: respect, high legal and ethical standards, safety and a space that will support you while doing the messy work of being human.

And since we are all human, never forget we are all on this journey together.

With gratitude  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Founder + CEO of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

 

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7 Must-Read Quotes from Potentia’s Featured Book of the Month: Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann, PhD

Eatinglabbest

 

Hello!

Congratulations on completing week one of the 52 weeks of 2016!

If you are like most people in our country, some of your goals/resolutions/intentions for the new year are around your health: how you feed, move and rest your body.

It is absolutely important to make health a priority (though not an obsession) in your life.

Yet, breaking through the noise about what it really means to be healthy is quite the challenge these days.

There are so many differing views on how to eat, how to move your body, what food is “good” and “bad” for you.

As a result, the meaning of health has become so skewed and good marketing that speaks well to your struggles and desired goals can also add to the confusion of what it means to be well.

Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet by Traci Mann, PhD is a gem of a book that reads with ease while digging into some involved research around the science behind a lot of the narratives around health, obesity, food choices and more.

I really appreciate how she guides the reader:

  • through the history and evolution of dieting
  • how to better discern the quality of the research so many health “facts” are based on
  • figure out what the key factors are which impact and define health

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book along with my additional thoughts and reflections. It was really hard to decide which nuggets to quote from this book as Dr. Mann has packed in so much wisdom. It is a worthy investment, for sure!

1. The use of the BMI is controversial because the formula for calculating it is not based on any understanding of how height and weight relate to each other, and because people who have high muscle mass tend to get categorized as overweight, despite having very little fat. (p.4)

  • At Potentia, we have educated our clients and community for years on the flaws of the BMI as a measure of health. It is more of a marketing tool and not an evidenced based measure of true health. Be wary of how you use this information to define your definition of health. It also can be very shaming and trigger behaviors that are unsafe.

2. If their (the weight loss industry) products were effective in leading to long-term weight loss, they would soon put themselves out of business. These businesses count on repeat customers. Richard Samber, the longtime financial chairman of Weight Watchers, likened dieting to playing the lottery. “If you don’t win, you play it again. Maybe you’ll win the second time. When asked how the business could be successful when only 16 percent of customers maintained their weight loss, he said “It’s successful because the other 84 percent have to come back and do it again. That’s where your business comes from. (p.9)

  • Caution against investing in businesses which profit from your failure. This is particularly concerning as weight-cycling (repeated gaining and losing weight) is shown to be more dangerous than carrying extra weight. This fact is cited extensively in this book, too!

3. Researchers have known for a long time that diets don’t work. Now you know it, too. (p. 15)

  • In this chapter, Dr. Mann shares how she and her students dug into all the studies often used to validate why a particular weight loss programs/diet will work. She found three major flaws in various health and weight related studies on weight. It is also noted why it is important for you to understand the gold standard of research and how to be a better consumer and questioner of the data being quoted. “The research says…” need not shut down the conversation but instead be a conversation starter.

4. Think of willpower as brute strength. The amount of you need is larger than the amount of it you have, and the amount you have is nearly depleted by nearly everything you do. (p. 48)

  • Unpacking the science behind willpower, Dr. Mann points out that willpower – when used as a tool to maintain health –  is not the best approach to lifestyle changes. She eloquently helps you understand the science of willpower so you can make better choices and decrease the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles around food + your health.

5. Shame is more painful than guilt, and to add injury to insult, shame has been shown to lead to a release of the stress hormone cortisol, and another kind of cell in the immune system (called a proinflammatory cytokine), which, among other things can promote the growth of disease. (p.62)

  • When shame is running your life around how you care for your body, diets – or some kind of restrictive or rigid rules around feeding and moving your body – are often a go-to response. Diet related behavior is one of shame’s bff’s.

6. But variables such as exercise, weight cycling, socieoeconomic status, fat distribution, and discrimination all factor into a person’s overall health…I hope you’re not still under the impression that you have to diet or obesity will kill you. If you exercise, eat nutritiously, avoid weight cycling, and get good quality medical care, you do not need to worry about obesity shortening your life. Especially if you shield yourself from weight stigma and the stress it causes… (p. 82+84-85)

  • Chapter 5 is powerful and provocative. It digs deep into the topic of obesity and myth-busting many narratives around carrying extra weight. The above words outline the complex factors which are a part of an accurate definition of health.

7. The benefits of exercise simply cannot be denied. Regular exercise can increase your life span, prevent disease, improve your mood, aid creativity, help you sleep better, and allow you to age more gracefully. These benefits are more easily attained than dramatic weight loss, and can be yours even if you do not lose a pound. (p.185)

  • Activity is a powerful indicator of your health. Finding an activity you will be motivated to do regularly is key. Now over-exercise, over-use injuries and complications related to hydrating and nutrition are flags that your activity has crossed over from being a positive positive part of your health into a negative one. At Potentia, we help our clients (re) define activity when this happens so moving their body can return to being a part of wellness and not the sole manager emotional pain.

There is so much good information packed into this book. I hope you check it out.

If you read the book, I would love to know what impacted you the most on how you view health.

All the best as you continue to challenge yourself to (re) define health in your life.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT, Founder + Director of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

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Space, Agency and Calendars in 2016

design

Hello and Happy New Year!

If your email inbox and Facebook feed are anything like mine, it is full of opportunities to buy books, programs, courses and services so you can heal/fix/change what is causing you pain.

It can bit tricky discerning who or what to bring into your circle of support. Breaking through the noise of good marketing can be an exercise in mental gymnastics and restraint – especially when you desire relief asap.

Now, I am a big believer in investing in the right support to achieve my goals both personally and professionally.

Shoot, I have a stack of non-fiction books – fueled by Amazon Prime – about the brain, faith, the soul and human behavior by my bed that are at various places of being read or re-read. I am currently in the middle of consultation to become an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant which has me working with some sharp and big-hearted mentors. And Potentia is inspired by the desire to be a place of refuge that offers specialized and collaborative support in a beautiful space as people rumble with their struggles and goals for a better quality of life.

Yes, desired change is most likely to happen not in a vacuum but when you have the right support surrounding you.

The New Year offers a natural time to reflect, reboot, start, stop – you get the idea.

Sometimes a new beginning can happen mid-year, too.

I had a second quarter course correction last March when I got really sick. So sick I had to cancel work and family trips and almost ended up in the hospital kind of sick.

This wake up call taught me I need to improve how I manage my allergies and recent diagnosis of asthma…. and get more rest. It was a big ah-ha moment reminding me of something I talk a lot about with my clients.

I was so used to the way my lungs were functioning that it was my normal. Like many of my clients, I have a high tolerance for pain as the normal and I was not taking time to notice, reflect and get curious about my discomfort because it was my homeostasis.

When my doctor looked at me and told me about the results of various tests and how surprised she was at all I had been doing with my current lung function, I laughed out loud. She was less amused… and the irony of it all was not apparent to her.

Yes, we all have our blind spots – even when it comes to our personal and professional loves, whatever they may be for you.

But as someone who has “shiny sparkly syndrome”, it is easy for me to get distracted by fun ideas, passions, interests and exciting opportunities.

So, I decided to a hard look at my calendar and made some big changes.

I love calendars. I have a few hard copy versions and I also have everything on my i-calendar. (This one, this one and this one are my favorites of late.)

Because my eyes have always been bigger than my calendar, I had to become better at editing, focusing and being realistic about my time because my old default was if I saw blank space on my schedule, I would fill it. Recalibrating back to my core values and some long conversations with my husband were essential during this second quarter course correction.

I shook my fists as I realized, again, how competition and scarcity sneaked their way back into my life and into my calendar. Oh, how relentless and slippery they are!

Competition and comparison are in our bones – whether you know it or not. It is a dark part of our humanity and you are fooling yourself if you think you can just “stop” competing or comparing without the investment of some serious time in practices to help redirect your default go-to mindsets. In fact, I think it is naive to think they can be eradicated from our lives entirely.

Our brains fire at such a speed that insight takes a bit to catch up before we realize the emotional tailspin we are in. It is more realistic to develop a practice to identify these beasts so you can call them out when they are trying to run your life.

Never forget: Your time and resources are precious commodities. There are billions of dollars invested to have access to your time and resources.

Which makes you pretty darn powerful, whether you believe it or not.

It may not feel like you have agency over your time and resources – especially when they are scarce due to health and life circumstances or just feeling like life is running you.

And the connection between how you manage the stressors in your life and your health, wellness and shame is crucial – or your time and resources slip away in a way that zaps you of living a life that is fulfilling and connected.

As you look at your 2016 with whatever calendar you use – make a commitment to re-evaluate how you want to use your time and resources.

If you are desiring more from your relationships, career, faith, physical health and are not sure where to start – scheduling time to invest in your desired area of growth is not a waste. And focus on one area at a time. In truth, all of the areas you desire change and growth are connected, so start one place and be steadfast.

Scheduling space to honor your priorities to: pray, write, reflect, create, play, dream, heal, grow is crucial.

That time does not need to be burdened with bullet points or to-do lists fueled by reactive “shoulds” outside of your core values. Nor does it have to be explained away or justified. You have been given agency and stewardship over your calendar.

Adjusting your expectations of all you need to do and when you need to do it by may help decrease the stronghold of perfection and scarcity mentality.

Perfectionism and scarcity may call this time indulgent and spike feelings of anxiety when your schedule is not completely booked. But if you schedule this space – just 3-5 hours a week – into your calendar to focus on what matters most to you this year, you may surprise yourself.

I ever-so-gently dare you to try this new approach to your time.

Of course, I have a bias on the importance and impact of mental health on our lives. Making time to rumble with emotional aches, loneliness, loss requires marking time off on your schedule to create space to heal instead of numbing out with the busyness of life.

Literally blocking out time on your calendar for what honors the desires of your soul is an investment. It also exponentially increases the chances you will make the time to do what you scheduled.

If you have been running at full speed for years, it will spike some anxiety in your brain as it takes time for your brain to develop a new homeostasis.

A good place to start using your calendared time of reflection is to do an inventory of where you spend your resources, your thought life and your time – it gives a good picture on what matters to you and who+what is getting the best of you.

And I often find that this data is not always in sync with core values and priorities – which is good data for further reflection.

This space is about looking at the hard things straight on and getting curious about how they are impacting your life.

As a result, new boundaries, improving tolerance of the discomfort of letting people down and (re) defining relationships may be necessary. All of these will require some space and even some support.

Consider engaging in this process with others in some capacity. It gets you out of your head and dares you to trust those who have earned the right to hear your story.

Remember – you are very powerful. Billions are invested into getting access to your time and your resources  – whether they are life giving or not.

Even if your power has been taken away from you, you can rise.

Instead of resolutions, diet programs or succumbing to the allure of quick fix programs, consider just making this space in your life – and on your calendar – to ask these questions:

  • Where do you desire change in your life?
  • Who+What is asking for your time and resources?
  • Who is even getting the opportunity to have an audience with you?
  • What is driving how you spend your time and resources?
  • What do you want shift in these areas in 2016?

Let me know what additional questions you are adding to your reflection time.

And go get 2016. The world needs you to show up in your circle of influence and make your art. Make the space – your life matters.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

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(re) Define Failure: Reckon, Rumble, Rise, Repeat

(re) Define Failure

Four years ago this week, I attended a conference where Brené Brown was speaking on a panel. When we met afterwards, I told her I listened to her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will Others Think’ to ‘I Am Enough’ while I ran my first half marathon. She knee slapped and about fell down laughing.

brene brown first mtg 2011
All smiles and a bit blurry…

I was so grateful to share space with a woman who cares passionately about family, faith, and making an impact on this planet through meaningful work in areas that I also care deeply about.

My respect for her research grew and a year later I would attend my first training in her work in San Antonio, TX. And four years after that first meeting, I found myself in Texas last week, yet again, sitting with my fellow The Daring Way™ Case Consultants getting trained in her latest research featured in her new book: Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (This book is coming out August 25th – pre-order here so you can have it in your mailbox as soon as it releases! )

Rising Strong Training
Yes, I travel with sharpies!

Brené’s research calls you to do more than recite definitions and, what has become to some, trendy lingo. It inspires action… and sometimes some regret because there is no turning back from the learning process this work fosters.

Her integrity along with her talents as a communicator and leader have changed the international conversation on shame, authenticity and courage. Brené is so gifted in making complex concepts easy to understand.

But do not be fooled. Taking the insights from her research and putting them into action is nuanced, hard work and not comfortable. Not. At. All.

It takes time and effort. Addressing traumas, grief and loss are inevitable if you start the journey of developing a shame resilience practice. Facing failure, frustration and doubt is also inevitable in this work, too. Which is why the Rising Strong process so important.

I appreciate Brené clarifying in Rising Strong that her work is not a quick fix to healing but a guide to a life-long practice involving struggle, failure, fear and shame resilience – all based on the results of her research.

No matter what your brain is drawn too, there is no such thing as a quick fix to heal from pain, traumatic or distressing experiences, loss, transition, mood issues, eating disorders, and more. It just takes a life time commitment to curiosity, compassion and doing the work.

Workshops, therapy, books, programs can all be wonderful tools on the journey, but be wise as to who you invite to support you on your path. As I wrote in my last post on struggle, good marketing is just that, good marketing. Be an informed consumer of media, services and products.

Rising Strong will feel like a letter of encouragement to many of you who show up day in and day out – reckoning and rumbling with the stories you tell yourselves which are filled with inaccurate data –  validating your struggle and persistence to find a better way to engage in your life.

This work is subversive, gritty and painful at times as the message to (re) define failure pushes new edges. The rush of “Me, too!” is often followed by “What now?”. Which is why Rising Strong in such an important read.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets from Rising Strong and my training last week that are provocative conversation starters in your circles of influence:

  •  “The physics of vulnerability = If you are brave enough you will fall. Daring is saying, “I know I will eventually fail and I am all in.” p.5  If you dare to show up and be seen you will fall and fail. It is not an if, it is a when. Taking this posture challenges the stories you tell yourself about failing and instead normalizes failure as a part our. It also teases out very quickly where you have externalized your worth and value.
  • “Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, This is part of the process. Stay the course.  p. 27/28 Grace, the undeserved gift from God flows deep with this work. Expertise is not the the savior in this journey, only God’s grace is what heals and offers oxygen when you feel like you are suffocating from your pain.
  • “Falling in the arena in the service of being brave is where our courage is forged.” You do not develop courage by studying it. You develop it by show up, falling and rising again. The struggle is hard as you fight to stop living from stories that are keeping you stuck.
  • “You cannot do anything brave or courageous without getting attacked. The alternative to avoiding the attack is silence – then you are complicit with the problem.” This is scary. But we are living in a time where we need less fear-based silence, less screaming, less critics and more respect+courage as we challenge harmful narratives that are taking lives and crushing souls.
  • When we go into struggle, our brain’s job is to make up a story about what is happening. The brain does not take into account the need for vulnerability and still classifies vulnerability as danger.” Building up the bandwidth to tolerate vulnerability – risk, uncertainty, emotional exposure – is a non-negotiable on the path to love and belonging (not fitting in where you are show up in life how you think others want you to be verses who you uniquely are.). That is why developing a shame resilience practice is crucial in this work.
  • “We get a dopamine rush when we find patterns that can fill in the beginning, middle and end of story” Even if the story is inaccurate, your brain wants to find a conclusion. So much so that you get a bit of a chemical boost when your brain writes an ending to a story. There is power in the stories we tell ourselves. Get curious about the stories you are telling yourself. Make sure these stories fuel bravery and courage instead of fear, shame and blame.
  • “Men and women who rise strong challenge conspiracies and confabulations (my new favorite word!) in the stories they are telling themselves.” A confabulation is when you tell a story you believe is true but it is not true. Conspiracies are based on some fact and also inaccurate data and assumptions.
  • “Sometimes we get so busy self-protecting we do not get curious… and then we protect at the expense of the other person.” Relationships are hard, messy and challenging. When you protect yourself in ways that are not reflective of your core values, through shame, silence, blame  – you often may end up hurting both yourself and someone you care about.
  • Our healing can never be dependent on our access to other people or the feedback from other people.” It is often helpful to engage with those who have hurt us in healing process but may not be possible or appropriate.
  • “Shaming someone else diminishes my humanity.” Shame is never a necessary ingredient in the healing process, though it often shows up. How we respond to shame when it surfaces can impact the trajectory of your healing process.
  • “When we allow ourselves to be defined by what everyone else thinks, we lose our capacity for courage. When we do not care what anyone thinks, we lose our capacity for connection.” These reminders are so powerful. And so you will find yourself in the grey zone of vulnerability as you turn away from the exhaustion of numbing out from caring what other people think or people pleasing and worrying what everyone else thinks.
  • “He or she who is the most willing to be uncool will gain the most from this work.” Being uncool is not about attention-seeking behavior. It is about tolerating the vulnerability of being seen and potentially misunderstood. Cool is overrated and sometimes exhausting. Laughter, song and dance fuel the freedom to (re) define cool.
  • “We tolerate physical discomfort but not emotional discomfort.” I am amazed at how so many people devalue emotional pain and see it as less-valid than physical pain. Your emotional pain deserves respect, care an attention – or it will start to run your life.
  • “Speak truth even when your voice shakes.” Speak up and inspire. Your voice is needed.
  • Trust, love, joy, creativity, innovation are all inaccessible without vulnerability. This leads to darkness.” When shame and perfection are the responses to feelings of risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure – tolerating vulnerability seems impossible and courage feels far away.

There is no room for perfection when we choose courage and normalize failure as part of the human experience. Mindy Kaling recently wrote an article in Glamour about confidence where she articulated the paradox of failure  ie: I feel better when you are failing and horrible when I am failing:

‘People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them… But when you’re winning, it makes them feel like they’re losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late. And since they didn’t, they want to stop you. You can’t let them.”

When you are constantly thinking about what others will think if you fail – or succeed – than you are letting shame and fear drive your life while squelching your precious and unique story from being told and lived.

Yes, we are the brave and the brokenhearted. It is time to (re) Define Failure: Reckon. Rumble. Rise. Repeat.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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Struggle does not equal failure – and other thoughts on struggling.

struggle does not equal failure

Last spring I had the chance to give a talk on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: body and story shame. One of the slides I shared during my talk – featured at the top of this post – garnered the most feedback from participants. I was struck by how powerful this statement was to so many and what a relief people said they felt when they gave themselves permission to separate struggle from their worth and value.

This feedback echoed one of the most common frustrations I hear from people about their frustration with the presence of struggle in their lives and the suffering that often ensues.

Many of the men and women I have met over the years show up in my office feeling like a failure because they are struggling (or are frustrated because they are still struggling) believing “everyone else seems to go through life without struggles like mine.”

Comparison is a beast to reckon with when it shows up. Our brains think comparison is helping us get safe when in fact it just pushes us deeper into the tar pit of fear and frustration.

I have given witness to countless individuals who realized what they believed about struggle was fueling shame. They decided to take a leap of faith and reach out for support  – hoping a different approach to their struggles would offer much needed relief.

Some of the most common myths I hear about struggle are:

  • All struggle is bad.
  • Struggle means I am a failure.
  • I am always going to struggle.
  • A life without struggle is possible and if not achieved, you are doing something wrong.
  • Only weak people struggle.
  • There is no place for struggle at work or in relationships.
  • Struggle means it is all my/their fault.
  • I can’t handle struggle.
  • When something is achieved without struggle, it is not worthwhile or valued.

I believe struggle is crucial to healing and growth. My desire is to continue to grow, heal and learn for the rest of my life, so I know struggle will be a reluctant companion of mine for seasons. It is now important for me to reflect on how my struggle came to be and what has/has not been done to achieve change but also how I respond to the struggles I face.

Be wary of responding to struggle with perfectionism: look perfect, act perfect, be perfect, never let people see you struggle, never let anyone struggle or be disappointed. Perfectionism keeps us frozen in homeostasis, squelches faith, keeps us chasing the unattainable and robs us of the opportunity to build our bandwidth for struggle.

Also caution against responding to struggle with shaming, finger-wagging questions like, “Why did I do that again?”  or “Why do I not have this figured out by now?” or “I know better, why I am still struggling?”.

Taking a posture of curiosity and respect when looking at your struggles or those of your loved ones is crucial. Turning away from the seductive reactivity of judgement, blame, gossip and numbing when struggle arises is also important so not to devalue the pain and uncertainty struggles trigger.

Responding differently to struggle involves (re) redefining your struggle narrative. I believe wholeheartedly in the following:

Struggle is data not an identity.

Struggle is a place of refinement.

Struggle can help discern if it is time for an ending, a change of focus or direction.

Struggling refines and builds fortitude.

Struggle is opportunity to engage and move through the pain, uncertainty and fear.

Struggle is where discomfort and breakthrough meet.

Please note: While I believe struggle is a foundational ingredient to sustained change,  if struggle ever involves physical, emotional, spiritual abuse it is imperative you remove yourself from the situation and get safe along with the appropriate support.

While we are walking this planet there is not a guaranteed end to struggle – which makes all of us susceptible to believing offers of quick and easy ways to deal with the pain of struggle. I am very suspicious and often frustrated with people who offer quick fixes to pain.

These gimmicks feed on fear and exhaustion with well-written promises that are enticing by speaking to your pain points. Good marketing is just that  – good marketing. It even gets to me and causes me to challenge what I know to be true: there is no way around the pain of struggle except through it – taking one step at a time while using hope as a flashlight in the dark.

We also need to caution against equating the duration of our struggles with our worth.

We like the certainty of quantifiable data and there is indeed a good amount of information available which can provide perspective and frameworks on your expectations around struggle. There are many excellent resources available in books, blogs and courses to learn, grow and develop important practices which can revolutionize how you engage with life.

But one-size-fits-all formulas which fuel unrealistic expectations and offer a cure to our struggling are misguided.

To change the narrative around struggle, we need to improve our bandwidth and tolerance for struggle along with the messy and uncertain. Doing the work to address trauma and distressing life events in your story is an important place to begin or continue healing. We are big proponents of EMDR Therapy at Potentia because of its efficacy, the research behind it and the respect it offers when addressing the tender parts of a client’s story.

There is nothing tidy about being a human who desires to engage in a life full of meaning and purpose. Figuring out how to set and maintain boundaries (not walls), getting clear your core values (which help you set boundaries) and building a sustaining shame resilience practice are necessary components to the journey of being human.

The story you tell yourself about struggle can have a powerful impact on how you show up in your relationships and at work; how you pursue dreams, handle rejection and disappointment.

What is the story you are telling yourself about struggle?

Start by sharing your stories of struggle with people who have earned your trust. If you do feel like you have someone to trust with your unedited story, write it down and start wrestling with all aspects of your story of struggle with a posture of respect and curiosity.

It is my hope you view struggle not at something to erase or mask but instead a space where redemption and grace ooze and fill in the holes of pain, loneliness and shame.

For those of you in San Diego, there are some workshops coming up at Potentia where you can can more clarity on the story you are telling yourself about struggle. Register here for the following:

  • (re) Define Perfection: July 31, August 7th and August 14th from 9AM-12PM Cost: $197
  • (re) Define Courage One Day Redux Workshop: August 21, 2015 Cost: $247 Ministry, Student and Wellness Professional Rate: $197 RDC Alumni Rate: $100

And for those of you not in San Diego:

  • The (re) Define Body Image:Choosing Respect Over Body + Story Shame e-course will be launching again this fall on October 5th. It will be a pay-what-you-can fee, though the suggested rate is $97.

I am also going to be giving the (re) Define Body Image: Choosing Respect Over Body + Story Shame talk I referenced at the beginning of this post at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene on September 19th from 9AM-12PM. Email me at rebecca@potentiatherapy.com and I will send you the registration details when they become available.

Cheering you on as you seek to tell a different story about struggle –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

 

 

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Summer “Camp” Workshops at Potentia – In Person and Online

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Happy Summer! My whole family loves this time of year. We spend a lot of time outside enjoying the longer days, warm nights and the new flow of our summer schedule full of camps, pool and beach time, backyard BBQ’s, and movies under the stars.

My kids are getting into their new routine of summer fun and a more relaxed wake up schedule (yay!). Their days are full of lounging around mixed in with play dates, martial arts + swimming classes and sports camps.

Our new schedule of kid camps and classes inspired me to offer some summer camp options for grownups who are in need of some soul connection and recharge time.

As a result, I am launching my first beta e-course: (re) Define Body Image: Choosing Respect Over Body + Story Shame and a new process group: (re) Define Perfection which will be held Friday July 31, August 7 and August 14th from 9AM-12PM. Potentia’s cornerstone workshop: (re) Define Courage: Dare To Show Up + Be Seen is also being offered this summer in a one-day format, too. There are two options to choose from for this one day redux workshop: July 24th, 2015 or August 21, 2015 9AM-5PM.

Register soon as space is limited in all workshops.

I look forward to connecting with you in the weeks to come in person or via the new e-course.

In the meantime, make sure to wear your sun screen, hydrate and make plenty of time to rest and play.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

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Personal + Professional Development Offerings this Spring at Potentia

Happy Spring!

As hard as it is to lose an hour of sleep, the longer days are very welcome.

Below are Potentia’s upcoming personal and professional development offerings to support you in all the roles you fill in your life:

  • (re) Define Courage: Dare to Show Up + Be Seen Weekly Intensives: Kick off your life long shame resilience practice in this workshop series based on Brené Brown’s research on shame, authenticity and vulnerability. With April and June offerings –  parents, educators, students, ministry and business leaders, wellness professionals and more can all benefit. For MFT students and interns, 18 group hours can go towards your BBS personal therapy requirement.

  • (re) Define Play: Connecting With Your Child: Whether you work with kids in your profession, are a student, parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle or just want to learn more about engaging with young children, this engaging workshop will help support a meaningful relationship with the little people in your life through the power of play.

In addition, I am offering individual and group consultations for those working towards their Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and Certified EMDR Therapist credentials. Email me for more information.

The Potentia Team and I look forward to seeing you at one or more of our offerings in the weeks to come. In the meantime, make sure to get some sunshine on your face and enjoy this new season!

Cheering you on  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching,LMFT
Founder + Director

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I Choose Respect Over Body and Story Shame 2015

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Today we kick off Potentia’s second annual “I Choose Respect” month.

#ichooserespect is an effort to connect with those who may not identify with clinical eating disorders but can relate with struggling in their relationship with food, their body and their story.

I believe we all can relate as I am yet to find someone who does not struggle with a bad body image day, week, month, year…

Where negative body image lurks there may be deeper struggles with:

  • feeding yourself
  • moving your bidy
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • low-self worth
  • identity
  • perfectionism and rigidity
  • disconnection from community
  • feelings of being out-of-control+impulsive thoughts/behaviors
  • trauma

Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental health illnesses.

Early intervention and prevention is crucial to decreasing the statistics around those struggling – and dying – from eating disorders and related issues.

Addressing the above list of struggles as soon as possible is an important investment in your mental health and in the prevention of more serious clinical issues.

Story Shame

This year I added “story shame” to our awareness campaign as my clients have taught me story shame fuels negative coping tools to deal with the pain and the fear of being judged, misunderstood, rejected- all of which can fuel disordered eating and eating disorders.

Shame about your story leads to putting on masks and moving away from owning and telling your story.

The lies of shame say if people really knew about your struggles, your experiences, your thoughts, your fears – you would be rejected and not worthy of love.

The common protective response is to armor up and numb out – often in ways that hurt your body, your relationships, your soul.

Disowning parts or all of your story keeps you stuck in fear.

Beginning to move to loving your story – and your body – can start with respect.

I often hear or read people reflect to those struggling with their relationship to their body and their story tell their friends, colleagues and their loved ones:

  • Just love your body.
  • Embrace your story.
  • You are so beautiful – just as God made you.
  • You are so strong – you can handle anything.

Sometimes these intended words of encouragement unintentionally diminish real struggle and trigger shame.

As a result, many increase their efforts to hide their struggles for fear they are seen as “drama” or “not good/Christian/strong enough” for struggling with their relationship with their body and their story.

Healing disconnection with body and story are not quick fixes. They are often rooted in deep attachment issues, traumatic experiences, individual temperament and genetics.

#ichooserespect is about respecting your body and your story when you do not like or even love them.

Respect Paves the Way

I believe respect creates a pathway to sustained loving and acceptance of your body and your whole story – when the time is right. It can not be forced.

Just like any relationship, when their are breeches of trust, it takes time to heal.

And there are too many people who do not trust their body and are in fact at war with their body.

It is time we give this kind of pain respect. Respecting your pain is a place to start a conversation, to ask for help, to offer connection when someone takes a risk to share their pain.

This year, we are featuring more like-minded leaders from all seasons of life in our #ichooserespect photo shoot. These photos will be featured daily for the entire month of February.

The conversations that started and continued from taking these pictures warmed my heart and inspired me.

My hope and prayer is that #ichooserespect inspires continued meaningful conversations and questions about how you talk about your body and your story with your friends, your family, your colleagues.

Most importantly, I hope #ichooserespect helps you (re) define your own internal conversations and decreases the noise between your ears.

Join the Conversation

Please join the conversation on Potentia’s Facebook Page, Potentia’s Instgram Feed or my Twitter feed. Help us spread the news about the I Choose Respect Awareness effort by using and tracking the hastags: #ichooserespect #respectyourbody #respectyourstory.

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The last week of February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week hosted by the National Eating Disorder Association.

All over the country, local communities are hosting walks to raise money and awareness for NEDA.

For the San Diego NEDAW walk, Potentia is hosting a team and will also have a booth at this wonderful event.

The Potentia team is hoping to raise $1000 from registrations for the walk. Invite your friends, colleagues, family, kids to register and join the Potentia team. Even pets can get in on the walk and fundraiser – scheduled for Saturday, February 28th.

Note: All money raised goes directly to NEDA, not Potentia

Event Details

Walk Venue:  NTC at Liberty Station
Walk Location: 2455 Cushing Road, San Diego, CA 92106
Walk Date: Saturday, February 28th, 2015
Check In Time:  9:00AM
Opening Ceremony: 10:00AM     Walk End Time: 11:30AM

How will you choose respect?

I am curious, how do you want to choose respect over body and story shame?

I look forward to connecting here on the blog and on the other social media outlets this month.

I am beyond grateful to all those who took time out of their schedule to participate, too. I can’t wait to share their pictures with you!

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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(re) Define: Resolutions

Happy New Year from Potentia 2015

This time of year is famous (or infamous) for resolutions.

Usually these resolutions involve language like:

  • more
  • less
  • start
  • stop
  • lose
  • change
  • balance
  • enough
  • no
  • yes

Goals are good. Intentions are important. Hope is crucial when we want to grow, heal and do life differently.

But sometimes we make some well-meaning errors in setting our goals, intentions, resolutions. They often are:

  • too rigid
  • unrealistic
  • not specific
  • too complicated
  • developed based what you think you need but not what you really need
  • leaning only on willpower instead of a collaborative community of support
  • not safe
  • not fun or enjoyable
  • developed out of impatience, fear or shame
  • not connected to your core values

Making desired changes in your life that are sustained need to be safe, practiced regularly and fueled by meaning and motivation.  (Click to Tweet)

Your goals, resolutions and intentions need to be inspired by your core values – not on an ideal identity you desire to hide behind as protection.

Yes, dream big.

Then scaffold your dreams into small actionable practices that will fuel more change, growth, fruits of your labors and healing.

It starts with showing up and asking for support from people you can trust.

Pacing desired change is also important when seeking sustained change.

The pain of loneliness, discomfort in your body, fear of rejection or failure can influence the resolutions you choose.

Turn away from numbing, hurting self or others and begin to build the emotional muscle to tolerate vulnerability.

Sometimes people numb out with the wrong resolutions thinking they will get sustained relief from pain if ______ happens.

What you desire to change is a very personal decision.

Desiring sustained change – not numbing out – involves leaning into vulnerability: risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure – as defined by Brené Brown.

And to be clear – there is nothing comfortable about being in the space of vulnerability.

At Potentia, we offer (re) Define Courage workshops to help people build a life long shame resilience practice so shame and non-protective fear do not run the choices you make in your life.

Our team also offers specialized support for those who desire change in their relationships with food, their body, their story and their relationships with God, self and others.

(In addition to offering individual, couples and family therapy, our team is launching several workshops this month. Make sure to save your spot soon!)

When distressing life events occur, your brain is made to move towards healing.

And when your brain gets stuck in working through the tough stuff of life, it is easy to get confused on how to deal with pain, fear, desire, hope and meaningful connection.

The psychotherapists at Potentia incorporate EMDR therapy into our work with clients so the process of getting unstuck has an evidenced-based road map customized to each client.

As you kick off 2015 with your goals, resolutions and intentions, make sure they are connected to your core values and can be regularly practiced.

If you have health or wellness related goals, contact Dr. Megan Holt for an in-person or Skype non-diet wellness assessment so you can cut through the marketing noise of the diet industry and develop goals that are best suited for your unique body and lifestyle.

And be careful to not compare your goals for change to the goals and resolutions of others.

Comparison is a general buzz kill to change.

You are the expert on you. Never forget that.

As you seek collaborative support and sustained change, the Potentia Team is here as a support and resource for you. It would be an honor to help you make 2015 a year of living in clarity and purpose.

____

What are you resolutions, goals, intentions for 2015?

What support do you need to meet your goals?

Cheering you on in 2015 –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

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